Fast growth of air freight through Dubai bucks global trend

The “build it and they will come” approach helped to transform the Dubai skyline.

Now it is doing the same for its air cargo industry as the region’s rapidly expanding hubs attract surging volumes of freight.

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) released data yesterday which showed the Middle East to be the only bright spot in a global air freight market defined by either slowing growth or contraction.

“Cargo growth has undoubtedly come off the boil,” said Tony Tyler, Iata’s director general and chief executive. “The expansion in volumes we saw in 2014 has ground to a halt, and load factors are falling.”

Demand for air freight among Middle East carriers jumped by more than 18 per cent in May compared to a year earlier.

That growth contrasts sharply with a 1.3 per cent decline in demand in Europe and a 2.9 per cent drop in North America over the same period.

“Trade with Middle East economies has been increasing, but a large part of the airlines’ business success is owed to network and capacity expansion that has encouraged air freight to go through Middle East hubs,” Iata said.

While global air freight demand faces turbulent times, the route expansion of regional carriers such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways is boosting cargo capacity.

That in turn is attracting more logistics and manufacturing companies seeking to benefit from the region’s improving transportation links.

Nestlé said yesterday it would invest 112 million Swiss francs (Dh436.5m) to build a coffee and cooking-related products factory in Dubai to meet rising regional demand.

Rising cargo volumes at Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central propelled the airport into the world’s 20 busiest international cargo hubs for the first time this year.

In September 2014, Dubai Airports said Al Maktoum International would undergo a US$32 billion expansion, enabling it to handle 16 million tonnes of cargo each year.

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